Defy (Defy #1)
By Sara B. Larson
Published January 7th, 2014
Young Adult | Fantasy
Source: received from Scholastic Press (via NetGalley and Baker & Taylor) in exchange for an unbiased review (THANK YOU!)
About the book:
Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.
The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?
High fantasy in young adult? Why yes, I’ll take more, please! And if it’s anything at all like Sara Larson’s Defy, keep it coming! I want more of Ms. Larson’s original world and I want it now. We have to wait a year for book two but let me share with you the awesome-ness I got myself lost in that is Defy, book one.
Alexa and Marcel are twins and after losing their parents in the war, they’ve signed up to serve in the King’s Army. Except to do this, Alexa is pretending to be a boy and at the age of fourteen, she easily got away with it. Having her brother at her side who could help with the charade made it easier. Three years later, Alex (the name Alexa goes by) is the best fighter on the Prince’s guard and Marcel is right there with her, helping her keep her secret.
Damian, the virtually do nothing prince, has been pretty easy to guard up to this point. But now assassins are aiming for the prince, looking to end the war. When Damian, Alex, and another of the prince’s guards are kidnapped out of the castle, it becomes harder for Alex to keep her secret, let alone protect Damian and know who to trust.
I think the intrigue, lies, and manipulations going on between everyone is really what kept me hooked. And despite all the machinations (see? I can use big words!) Ms. Larson was able to keep the plot “clean” and NOT garbled up with a bunch of useless facts that would bog down a story of this type. Because of Ms. Larson’s talent to streamline, this story moves, doesn’t get away from you, and never left me confused. It is completely appropriate for the young adult crowd and super for adults who love fantasy with romance.
Romance? Did I say the “R” word? Oh yes… yes I did! And yeah, looking up at the synopsis, you’ll read that there’s a love triangle. Sorry to say but yes, that is true. But it’s not torturous; it has it’s place in the story. It isn’t just thrown in for the added drama. And where the love triangle ends up is so worth any pain you might have endured getting there.
All the characters were well penned. I really liked the character of Alexa. She has two sides to her personality that are finally coming out to clash with each other and I enjoyed being in her head to hear both sides battling (“I can carry my own sword!”) Her brother, Marcel, was simply amazing and I wish there was just more of him. The fellows guards were all great and because of Ms. Larson’s writing talent, it was easy for me to keep track of all the guards.
Rylan, the one guard who is probably Alex’s best friend, aside from her brother, is like the all-american boy. He is just perfect in every way. He just wasn’t my favorite. My favorite was Damian, the do-nothing prince. I can’t tell you why. I can’t tell you anything without spoiling the story for you. I really wish I could tell you what other fictional character he reminds me of!!! Seriously!! As I was reading, I was reminded of another fictional princely type of guy I recently read and how Damian reminds me of him. It’s a fantastic comparison and I so wish I could share… someday.
In the meantime, I highly recommend this book to those readers who both have and haven’t read fantasy before (high fantasy or otherwise). It’s a great book to ease you into the genre. For readers of high fantasy that are used to the investment that comes with those agonizingly long fantasy books (G.R.R.M. or Jordan, anybody?), this story satisfies that fantasy craving without all the time investment.
About the author:
I love writing, reading, and dessert–but the order varies by the day. I wrote my first book in second grade about a woman who had a premature baby, complete with a “to scale” drawing of the baby’s size–while my mom was pregnant. To say I was a bit precocious is putting it lightly. Now that I’m an adult, I write books for teens that have magic and romance and kick-butt girls (and very few premature babies). I live in Utah with my husband, two young sons and baby girl. I write during naptime and the hours when most people are sleeping. My husband claims I should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” On occasion you will find me hiding in a bubble bath with a book and some Swedish Fish.